Banished words

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It's the beginning of a new year, so Lake Superior State University has come out with its annual list of words (well, expressions) to be banished from English. (We've had brief Language Log postings on earlier LSSU lists — at least, here, here, and here.) Yes, it's a publicity stunt, and yes, it's a steaming pile of intemperate peeving (on the evidence of the comments selected for the entries on the site), and yes, the hyperbolic conceit of the site is that not only are the compilers declaring that they despise these expressions but they are proposing that everyone should be prohibited from ever using them (not that such opinions could have any real effect on what people do; the site is all show and no consequence.)

The villains are familiar: expressions that are, or are believed to be, recent innovations; especially those associated, rightly or wrongly, with young people (on chillaxin': "a made-up word used by annoying Gen-Yers") or journalistic writing or business talk; currently popular expressions, or expressions believed to be currently popular, labeled as "overused" or "buzzwords" (as if popularity was a curse in itself); portmanteaus (sexting, bromance, chillaxin', variations on Obama); and abbreviated expressions (app).

The substitutions commenters propose are often tin-eared or semantically deficient:

for the verb friend in social media: send a friend request or befriend;

for teachable moment: opportunity to make a point or lesson;

for czar: leader, coordinator, or director;

for toxic assets: bad stocks, debts, or loans;

for app: program.

I usually try to steer clear of sinks of peeving, because they are mostly just ill-informed recitations of contempt, but once a year I check in on the LSSU folks and their (fortunately brief) parade of bile (in part because their list comes out just before the American Dialect Society votes, in a light-hearted way, on the Words of the Year in various categories).

I'll post separately on objections to tweet (verb or noun), which made the LSSU Final Fifteen this year.

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